For the last few months, I have been learning to drive. Clutch pedal in, reverse gear engaged, I back out of the driveway and into my neighborhood, where I hone my driving skills on a daily basis.
It doesn’t really matter to me that I will turn forty-five in a few weeks. You see, I’ve come to believe that I’ll never be too old to learn anything.
My formal education ended in 1985, and I’d occasionally dabble in this or that. After my children came along, I put my needs aside and focused all of my energy in raising them to be responsible citizens of the planet, putting my personal growth on some make-believe back-burner.
Then late last year, I tasted my first mid-life crisis. My nest, it seemed, had prematurely emptied itself, and I was left alone much of the time while my oldest child was away at school and my youngest child was out nurturing his adolescent social life. I found myself with plenty of “me” time, much more than I’d ever really wanted, so I began focusing on my own goals and desires. This past year, I’ve learned how to write a memoir, decorate a cake and knit a matching hat-and-scarf set. Next up is a web-writing class where I will learn how to create a website.
Now that I have tapped into the keg of adult knowledge, I thirst for more, and I am a diligent pupil. I teach myself when I can and rely on the expertise of others when I need to. The prize at the end of the journey? It’s mine for the taking.
This learning to drive seems to define my middle age, where forty-five is the new thirty-five. By not driving, I realize, I am only holding myself back. And I refuse to hold myself back any longer. If I can do this, I can do just about anything I set my mind to.
Naturally, my husband is thrilled at the thought of not being the only driver in the house, so he gladly takes me out for lessons several hours each week. I’m sure I’ve put in more than a hundred hours of driving time so far, much more than is required of me, but I figure a little extra practice won’t hurt.
In a zen sort of way, I’m still working on becoming one with the car, but I’ve come a long way since the early days when I practiced my new driving skills on the complex of a nearby convent and its school and nursing home. I’m delighted to report that I rarely stall the car or miss a gear, and I stopped aiming it a long time ago, much to my husband’s delight.
Sometime next month, I believe I will walk in the front door of the DMV and walk out with a license. In the meantime, please don’t honk your horn when I mess up or grow impatient with me for driving the speed limit. After all, I’m still a student driver.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.